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Clean Water Rule's Repeal Could Have Consequences for Sprawling Development in Arizona

A recent decision by the Trump administration regarding the Waters of the United States Rule is changing the legal calculus of a plan to add 28,000 homes in the city of Benson, located southwest of Tucson.
September 24, 2019, 11am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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San Pedro River
The San Pedro River where it passes through Saint David, south of Benson, Arizona.
Tim Roberts Photography

The Trump administration's actions to repeal the Waters of the United States Rule have the developer a massive master planned community outside of Tucson talking optimistically about the prospects for the development in court.

As noted by Planetizen in a post earlier this month, the developer El Dorado Holdings is planning a development called Vigneto in the city of Benson, just east of Tucson in Arizona. The project would add 28,000 homes to the city.

After the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reissued a Clean Water Act permit for the project, six environmental groups—the Lower San Pedro Watershed Alliance, Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, Maricopa Audubon Society, Tucson Audubon Society, and Cascabel Conservation Association—filed legal challenges to the project.

But the Trump administration's decision earlier this month to roll back clean water protections under the Waters of the United States Rule, approved during the Obama administration, is likely to have consequences for the legal case, according to an article by Ian James.

Developer Mike Reinbold believes the development will move ahead soon as a result of the actions by the Trump administration. "Once the new regulation takes effect, perhaps as early as January, Reinbold said the federal permit for dredge-and-fill construction work on 51 acres of the property will no longer be required," reports James. If Reinbold's theory plays out in court, construction could begin as early as next year.

"Opponents of the project disagree with the developers’ interpretation of the law, and say they plan to keep fighting the development, which they say would harm the San Pedro River," according to James.

James cites more interest groups to further elaborate on the issues under debate, including the effectiveness of conservation laws.

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Published on Monday, September 23, 2019 in Arizona Republic
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